Martin C. Evans

Iraq, Afghanistan vets organize at Stony Brook

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at Stony Brook University are trying to make sure fellow student vets know there is someone out there who has their back.

Byung Sa, 26, an Army Reserve staff sergeant who served two tours in Iraq – one in ’03-’04 and another in ’08-’09 – is among students who have revived Stony Brook’s formerly-defunct Veteran Students Organization.

He said there are about 80 veterans on campus whose military service came after 9/11. Sa said about a dozen of them are active with the newly-reorganized campus veterans group, and he invites veterans not served by organizations at other area colleges to take part as well.

He can be reached at byung.sa@us.army.mil

“I think veterans should stick together so they can have someone they trust, and who knows what they have been through,” Sa said.

Sa said encouraging recently minted veterans to come together is important because they are much less likely than their WWII and Korean War counterparts to get involved in veterans organizations.

“A lot don’t want to focus on their military time,” he said. “They want to forget about it and start a new life outside. And the VFWs and the American Legion could use a different marketing strategy.”

But their lack of involvement means America’s newest veterans often have little contact with Vietnam-era and other ex-GIs who are familiar with the pressures and stresses today’s returning troops are experiencing, such as unemployment, war-related anxieties and a sense of alienation from a civilian population that often seems self-absorbed and lacking discipline.

The re-entry into student life has also proven difficult, Sa said.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans often feel out of place on college campuses. They are generally several years older than other students, have handled greater responsibility, and have had experiences their non-military counterparts only dream about while playing war video games.

To build a sense of community, the group plans to organize social events ex-soldiers can relate to. For one, an excursion to a paintball arena is in the works. And Sa has made contact with a VFW Post in Centereach, not far from the Stony Brook campus.

Sa said the connection might be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. He said the place has a friendly bar.

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  1. This is great to see, this is what we need in all colleges. Veterans working with Veterans on answering their questions about GI Bill benefits and other military issues is needed at all colleges.

    My name is Steve, I’m a Veteran and now working on Master’s in School Guidance Counselor. I have used up all of my GI Bill and now using my Post 9/11 GI Bill. I also am the Founder of Transitioning Veteran.com a website full of links and information pertaining to Veteran issues and where I also speak about my experiences Transitioning.

    Great article and I will be adding your blog to my website.

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